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Designer wants to create 2 lakes for water-skiers

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If someone told you scuba diving and water-skiing were relatively plentiful in Tooele County, you might laugh.

But it's true, at least on one account.

There are two places to scuba dive, one near Grantsville and one south of Wendover. Already there is a site where people train for competitive water-skiing in the Rush Valley.

With any luck, enough interest and plenty of money, there may soon be another destination for water-skiing in a county known more for its military bases and hazardous waste.

Sumner Swaner, owner of Swaner Design, envisions two lakes, each about a half mile long and 6 feet deep, nestled in the arid landscape between Grantsville and I-80. Swaner Design specializes in landscape architecture and open-space planning for communities.

"They'll certainly see what would be called a state-of-the-art facility in terms of safety, engineering and aesthetics for skiing," Swaner said. If the concept holds water with the Tooele County Planning Commission Oct. 3, the first of two lakes might be ready by next summer.

But why carve a new lake into Utah's harsh environment when it's already home to several reservoirs, Willard Bay and Utah Lake, places where skiers regularly cut a wake?

Simple: Tournament-level skiers want "glass."

"They want to have perfect conditions, and they're willing to pay for it," Swaner designer Sharen Hauri said. For about four hours after dawn, water-skiing conditions are prime.

Slalom skiing. Ski jumping. A public ski school. And if there's enough interest, even wake boarding and night skiing would be available on an 80-acre development that would host 20-40 memberships or partners who invest in the $2 million to $3 million project. A partnership would cost a minimum of about $75,000, if enough people participate.

"We're trying to create an investment," Swaner said. "We're going to have a premium-type facility. This is an expensive sport to participate in." Partners will also own two boats, one for each lake, with on-board computers that process information vital for competition.

Swaner, himself a water-skier, thinks the interest is there. More than 100 people have already contacted him about the proposed Oasis Ski Lakes. Tuesday night he held a meeting in Salt Lake City to answer questions.

The plan is for a private landowner to divide 160 acres in two, with half for the ski lakes. The other 80 acres could become commercial and industrial developments.

County planner Nicole Cline said Oasis may, in effect, double as wetlands habitat. Despite that benefit, neighboring farmers see a potential snag in the idea.

According to Cline, skeptics have already expressed concern that by using groundwater to fill the lakes, irrigation water would be in short supply. Further, if the water table decreases enough, some fear that the quality of any remaining supplies could become too saline for irrigating crops.

A preliminary engineering study of the site reportedly shows a "negligible" impact on surrounding wells within 3,000 feet of the lakes. Cline said an additional impact study may be required before the go-ahead is given to begin construction of the lakes.

"We just don't use that much water," Swaner assured. "We're trying to be as green as possible."

Hauri said Oasis will be bigger than the Rush Valley site and have more amenities. If Oasis can gain the endorsement of the American Water Skiing Association, organizers may one day bring competitive ski events to the area.

E-MAIL: sspeckman@desnews.com